G20 Executive Talk Series

B20 Secretariate

Dr. Stormy-Annika Mildner

B20 Sherpa

B20: An Indispensable Partner of the G20

The work program of the 2017 B20 (Business 20) is ambitious. Eight working groups, each of which comprises around 100 representatives from companies, business associations, and international organizations, drew up recommendations to the G20 on diverse issues. Reaching consensus is not always easy, but the success of the B20 in previous years shows that it is more than worth it in the end.

Since 2010, the B20 has been responsible for the official business dialogue of the G20—the group of 19 leading industrialized and emerging economies and the EU. The global advisory body helps G20 members respond to global challenges—with consolidated and concrete action proposals that speak for the entire G20 business community. The complex and internationally connected work of the B20 is coordinated by business representatives of the country that at the time is holding the G20 Presidency. For the twelve months of the German Presidency, the leading German business associations—the Federation of German Industries (BDI), the Confederation of German Employers’ Associations (BDA), and the Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry—have taken over the leadership of the B20 from representatives of the Chinese business community, CCPIT. The B20 represents with one voice the business interests of all G20 members, in sectors ranging from manufacturing to finance. Both small and big companies take part in the B20. More than 700 representatives of companies and business associations belong to the B20 each year.

The theme of this year’s B20 presidency is “Resilience, Responsibility, Responsiveness – Towards a Future oriented, Sustainable World Economy”. And this theme could not have been chosen better. Growing populist and anti-globalization sentiments underline the need for policy-makers as well as business representatives to show responsible and responsive leadership. National go-it-alone strategies are not an answer to today’s problems. Rather, political and business leaders around the globe need to work together to pave the way towards a futureoriented and sustainable global economy. Top priorities this year for us were trade, digitalization, as well as climate change and energy. Accepting our own responsibility as business, we also placed responsible business conduct and anti-corruption high on the agenda.

The fact that business representatives from all G20 members engage in regular exchanges, consolidate interests, and promote joint positions is, in itself, of value. It goes without saying that—like in the G20 negotiations are sometimes difficult and heated in the B20. But it is especially the consensus-finding on these controversial topics that shows the G20 valuable options for workable solutions. Indeed, we all have the same goal: sustainable, inclusive and dynamic growth in a world that is becoming ever more closely integrated.

In this way, the B20 contributes to understanding, trust, and interconnectedness. It is often through these intensive exchanges that it first becomes clear that our interests and goals are more similar than we originally thought. For the G20, it is important and helpful to have a consolidated position on the economy rather than a cacophony of voices from the individual member states. Moreover, the G20 relies on the and practical experience of the business community to identify the measures that need to be taken.

Many of the B20 recommendations are incorporated into G20 decisions—each year, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) analyzes this process. Moreover, recommendations of the B20 are often explicitly referred to in G20 statements. We believe that the B20 played an important role, for example, in the G20’s current focus on digital trade and in the numerous G20 initiatives aimed at improved funding for small and medium-sized enterprises.

Most of today’s challenges are global. One country alone will not be able to tackle them. The same goes for fully leveraging existing opportunities. Countries opting to go it alone are doomed to fail. For this reason, the G20 not only plays an important role in providing an impulse for policy-makers; it is also important for determining the agenda of international policy and global governance. It helps to further develop the rules for the global economy. Of course, it is true that the G20 does not have a permanent secretariat like that of the United Nations or the World Trade Organization. And in contrast with other international organizations, it cannot take any decisions that are binding under international law. But precisely because it is not dependent on rigid structures, it has been able to demonstrate during times of crisis the flexibility needed to secure the main planks of global economic policy. If we did not have the G20 yet, we would need to create it today.


Dr. Stormy-Annika Mildner is currently the B20 Sherpa, responsible for the operational leadership of the G20 business dialogue. She is also the head of the department “Foreign Economic Policy” at the Federation of German Industries (BDI).